Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo: A great history and future
One of the biggest livestock events of the whole year in the northern plains is the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo. Held the last week of January every year, the Stock Show is a welcome break from winter work, a social event for all, and a boon to the Rapid City economy.
The event was the brainchild of a group of Rapid City Chamber of Commerce members who believed that Rapid City could benefit from a strong affiliation with the agricultural community. The group, which formed in 1958, included George Weedman, Ken Roberts, Ann Fields and Wilma Roper.
On Feb. 26-28, 1959, the Black Hills Winter Show debuted at the Central States Fairgrounds and its adjoining barns, produced by the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce Agriculture committee, under the management of Raymond Lund. There were Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn sales held in the Soule building, plus events happening all over Rapid City, such as a style show at the Arrowhead Country Club, Rapid City High School band performances, an awards banquet at the Sheraton-Johnson Hotel, a Lions Club pancake supper, livestock feed demonstrations in the Alfalfa Palace, and breakfast and lunch at the Rapid City auditorium (now Dakota Middle School). The Jaycees had a merchandise fair with 72 booths the first year.
In the first cattle show, there were 37 Angus, 47 Herefords, and 19 Shorthorns, with females and bulls selling to the public.
In 1967, the name was changed to the Black Hills Stock Show when the Central States Fair took over management of the entire event. That same year, two new cattle breeds were added – Polled Herefords and Galloways.
After much encouragement from Darrell Hoar, Dick Bray and Lyndell Peterson, a horse sale was added in 1980 and held at the Soule Building at the fairgrounds. The first sale was small in numbers but large in interest.
As the Black Hills Stock Show grew and evolved with the changing times, it was ready to add rodeo when the Civic Center opened in 1980 with the first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo. By 1981, the whole Black Hills Stock Show was moved to the Civic Center, providing room for the event to grow more quickly.
The Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo has expanded to include PRCA rodeo for the duration of the event; Xtreme Bulls Tour; 20X High School Rodeo competition; a bucking horse sale; Ranch Rodeo; a two-day horse sale; Stallion Alley; Sheep Shearing contest; Sheep Dog Trials; a petting zoo; quilt show; and a tradeshow. Many other events were moved to the James Kjerstad Event Center when it opened at the fairgrounds, and those include an AQHA show, ranch horse competition, barrel races, team roping, buffalo sale and professional saddle bronc competition, which is returning for 2012.
“The best thing about the Stock Show is the diversity. There are events there for everyone to watch and participate in,” says Ron Jeffries, Black Hills Stock Show manager who came on board in 1997. “As times have changed, the events have changed with them, but the cattle show and sale is still the mortar that holds the whole thing together.”
The breeds of cattle have varied over the years as the “exotics” entered the scene in the late 1960s. Charolais were added first, followed by Saler, Simmental, Chianina, Limousin, Maine-Anjou and Gelbvieh. Some breeds have come and gone as their popularity waned, but the cattle shows and sales still go on all week.
Long-time supporter and current Youth Day volunteer Lyndell Peterson says, “There has always been fierce competition to have the champion bull bring the most money of all the breeds. That’s never changed.”
“Being able to actually buy cattle at this Stock Show makes it different from most shows,” Jeffries adds. Buyers return year after year to watch the shows and pick their seedstock for the future and are both commercial and registered breeders.
As the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo has grown over the years, there have been successes and failures – as there is in every endeavor – but the crowds that come despite the sometimes inhospitable northern plains winters are proof that it’s the place to be every winter.
Dick Bray, who for many years was involved in the Stock Show, says, “It’s one of the finest things that’s ever happened to Rapid City and Pennington County. It’s just been such a great event for the whole region.”
Jeffries adds, “In terms of what’s successful, you have to provide variety. As the public’s interests change, you have to stay current.” The ever-improving Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo has done that and more. It’s the meeting ground of rural and urban attendees, and has introduced generations of folks to events that they may not have ever had the opportunity to see otherwise.
The 54 years since the Black Hills Stock Show was just a dream have passed quickly, and it’s become more than those early dreamers could have imagined.